Without the help of members
of the Society of Friends (Quakers) and novelist Leo Tolstoy, who both
pleaded the cause of the Doukhobors and helped them financially in their
move, the Perverseffs would never have been able to leave Russia. Once
here, they faced the usual hardships confronting all of our early pioneer
settlers - a harsh unyielding land in a harsh climate. Yet the Doukhobors
were hard workers, used to the cold weather and difficult conditions,
and in time, managed to make the land yield to both their efforts and
By 1907, however, a crisis in landownership had developed, bringing
with it fighting and division within the Doukhobor communities. In the
face of demands from the Conservative opposition who believed settlement
of lands should be on a British model, Prime Minister Sir Lilfred Laurier
reneged on his promise that the Doukhobors could live and work in colonies.
A new policy required individual homesteading and an oath of allegiance
as the terms for free land. This offended many Doukhobors, who believed
that if you were a true Christian, you would avoid individual ownership.
Others (who called themselves independents), filed land claims, and
used the word "affirm" instead of "oath" when they
signed the government document for land. Those who were unwilling to
accept these new terms lost 121,000 hectares of land, and were allowed
to only keep 6 hectares per family.
Some Doukhobors then moved to British Columbia near the Kootenays, and
by 1912, 8000 Doukhbors had relocated there to 44 communes. Thirteen
villages were set up in Alberta by 300 Doukhobors.
With the death of their
leader and the coming of the Depression, other problems beset the Doukhobors.
Some wanted to move with the future and learn the ways and culture of
their new land. Others did not, believing they must hold steadfast to
the old ways. The Sons of Freedom became the most notorious Doukhobor
splinter group, and even today (please see sidebar), their highly unusual,
sometime even violent protests gain media attention.
By the early 1900s, tensions
between Doukhobors and government merely worsened. The Sons of Freedom
refused to give vital statistics or send their children to public schools.
Public antipathy towards the Russian immigrants led to police crackdowns.
From the 1920s to the 1960s, police made hundreds of arrests. The Sons
of Freedom responded by staging nude protests.
The dates and events below
capsulize the tumultuous history of the Doukhobors since their arrival,
and chronicles many of the obstacles and events related to a peaceful
proposes the Doukhobors be awarded the Nobel Peace Prize. 1899 First
Doukhobors settle on the Canadian prairies. Eventually 7,500 settle
1899 Tolstoy completes his novel Resurrection and uses
the proceeds to finance the Doukhobor migration to Canada.
1908-1912 About 5,000 Doukhobors move to BC under the
leadership of Peter V. Verigin; 19,000 acres of forest land is purchased
in the Kootenays.
1919 BC bars Doukhobors and other conscientious objectors
1924 Leader Peter V. Verigin and eight others (including
one member of the provincial legislature) are killed in a train explosion
between Castlegar and Grand Forks. The case remains unsolved.
1927 New leader Peter P. Verigin arrives in BC
1931 Doubkhobors are barred from voting in federal
1932 About 600 members of the Sons of Freedom sect
of Doukhobors protest their eviction because of nonpayment of taxes
and refusal to send their children to school. They are arrested and
detained until 1935.
1947-1948 A royal commission investigates arson and
bombings in BC It recommends Doukhobor children be integrated in the
public school system so they will assimilate.
1953 One hundred and seventy Sons of Freedom children
are hunted down, arrested, and forcibly placed in a residential school
in New Denver. They are released in 1959.
1950-1962 Sons of Freedom protest throughout the Kootenays
by burning their own houses, stripping at court appearances, and planting
1962 About 800 Sons of Freedom begin walk from the
Kootenays to Agassiz Mountain Prison in the Lower Mainland to join their
imprisoned relatives. They live at the gates of the prison for 10 years.
1972 The Kootenay Doukhobor Historical Society Village
Museum opens in Ooteschenia near Castlegar.
2001 Many of the children sent to residential school
in the 1950's file a lawsuit against the government, claiming they were
rounded up and confined against their will.